Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Why Should I Worry?

It was the summer of 1997 when the Hernandez Family, then a party of 5, traveled to the Rosedale area to answer an ad in the Bakersfield Californian for a free terrier dog.  We had recently lost our beloved German Shepherd Crystal, and had only just adopted Twink, a hodgepodge of working dog breeds.  We piled into the family car, a blue Subaru station wagon, to pick up Emily, whose family owned ranch property and horses but had to give Emily away because of her tendency to run between the horses' legs, nearly tripping them.  

Later that summer the station wagon was traded in for a new van when we learned that our family of 5, in addition to growing with the addition of Twink and Emily, would shortly be growing once again with the anticipated arrival of Victoria.  

And so we grew, and we watched Emily and Twink grow right alongside Victoria.  Emily became famous among us for two things: First, her tendency to shoot through a door or gate at any opportunity and run through the neighborhood without slowing down.  She usually had to be chased in a car and it took all available hands on deck to retrieve her.  Next, she was known for her wild fur.  No matter how often she was bathed, brushed or trimmed, she always had this orphaned look about her.  Her appearance reminded us of the character Rosco from Disney's Oliver and Company and when she looked especially scruffy to us, we'd affectionately sing to her "Why should I worry?  Why should I care?"  

Emily was far from an orphan, though.  She was always loved, especially by Monica.  While I took to Twink that summer, Emily quickly became Monica's pet.  The relationship between Twink and Emily was also undeniable and the mix-matched pair of "sisters" brought joy and laughter to the family.  Years later when Twink was diagnosed with diabetes and the illness blinded her and began to effect her temperament, we were stunned to see Twink start to turn on Emily, especially with the introduction of Lola, our family German Shepherd who moved in in October 2007.  Eventually, Twink's illness shut down her internal organs and we had to put her to sleep nearly 5 years ago.  We hoped that with Twink's sad passing, Emily and Lola could live in harmony again.  After a very close-call, Emily, who had always been an outdoor dog, moved indoors. 

We weren't sure, at her advanced age and her propensity for bolting, how Emily would transition, but it was just a matter of time before Emily was very apparently enjoying the life of an only-indoor dog.  She laid where she wanted to, ate when she wanted to, and generally lived a life of luxury.  

Emily and Monica soon became a staple sight around the neighborhood.  Monica took Emily on three walks a day to make sure she had an opportunity to use the bathroom.  She came home on her lunch hour to walk Emily or let her outside.  Once a month she would travel to Fresno to visit with a cloister of nuns whose order she was discerning, but she would call or text reminders to take Emily outside.  Each of those weekends, Emily would wait by the front door, hoping that the next time it opened, Monica would walk through.  

They were to ladies, set in their ways, a stoic pair whose consistency you could always depend on.  When I moved in three doors down from my parents and Monica, I could see her walk by my front yard every evening.  Even when I wondered if my ex-husband would ever come home, I could be certain that Monica and Emily would traverse by at some point before and after the sun went down.  

Emily's walks started getting shorter and shorter.  She struggled to make it around the block, and so they would take a short-cut through the alley.  Then, she could only make it to the end of the block and back.  In recent weeks, Monica and Emily have only paced the yard.  Last night, Emily couldn't even do that much. Through it all she did not whimper, did not cry, did not howl.   

This morning at 7:40 I walked three houses over to say my good-byes to Emily before Monica wrapped her in a towel and carried her to the vet's office where Monica would say her own good-byes.  

I figure, if Emily was a year old when we got her in the summer of 1997, as her former family told us she was, she was about 18 years old when she went to her final rest this morning.  Not a bad run, for a scrappy little dog who tripped horses and battled German Shepherds.  No matter what she was going through, no matter how she looked, no matter her limitations, she just kept moving along as best she could.  And I like to believe that no matter how much she struggled her last few years and especially months and days on earth, today she's running free, her fur a tangled mess, her "sister" Twink alongside her restored to perfect health, singing "Why should I worry?  Why should I care?" 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Nano, Nano

"He's gone.  He's been down a few days."

My face crumpled and my body convulsed as I absorbed the information, only confirmation of what I already knew.

"Do you want me to call someone?"  I stared at him.  "Do you have a religious affiliation?"

I nodded.

"What is your religious affiliation?"

"Catholic." More emergency vehicles rolled by, their sirens silenced by this point.  A car marked "Kern County Coroner" passed.

It was true.  Sean was dead.

Nearly 10 years later the memories are still fresh enough to come flooding back when the news of a celebrity suicide captures the headlines.

Robin Williams, 64 years old, was a beloved actor.  We felt like we knew him.  We knew his voice.  We knew the twinkle in his eyes.  But we didn't know the depth of his internal struggle.

I was closer to Sean than anyone in the world on the day that he died.  I knew things were bad. I've spent years putting away the guilt I felt for not stopping him from putting that gun to his mouth.  Some people say I should feel angry at him for leaving like he did.  They would say that I should be angry at him for being selfish.  But they didn't know his heart.

What I feel much more powerfully than any other emotion when I think of Sean is a simple sadness that he is dead.

I am sorry I ever had to call his dad and say, "Sean is gone."  I am sorry that his mother will never dance with her son at his wedding.  I am sorry that I have found my soulmate, and somewhere out there Sean's is looking for hers but he's not here to be found.  I am sorry that we never got to have a real break-up, a real good-bye.  I am sorry that his 36th birthday just passed, but the world will never know a 36 year old Sean.

I am sorry that his life was cut short at 26 years old. I am sorry that at 22 I had to find his dead body, call the police, answer investigative questions about his last days, go to his funeral, be the battering ram for his mother whose grief far surpassed mine and whom I was the obvious target.  I'm sorry for the way that he's haunted my past relationships, and now that the guilt has been shelved and my memories of the event are bearable I am sorry that I ever had to come to terms with the death of my young boyfriend and best friend.

As I mourn the death of Robin Williams with the rest of the world, I can't help but mourn Sean.  He was the Mork to my Mindy, my best friend, forever young, and out of this world.

Be Good to Your Daughters.

The day the nurses placed Eden on my chest following the grand announcement that she was a girl, I thought two things:  First, I touched her perfect, round, whole head and marveled that she was real and healthy and here.

Then it hit me - I had no idea what I was going to do with a daughter.

There were the obvious concerns.  I hardly know what to do with my own hair, let alone the hair of a little girl.  I have pitiful fashion sense and I'm pretty shitty at applying make-up.

But my broader fears, the fears that kept me hoping for a brood of boys, have been creeping up on me.  How do I teach her to be selfless, without giving herself away?  How do I teach her to love others, but not at the expense of not loving herself?  How do I teach her to have a heart open to love and romance, but not to be a fool?  Or let her know that she is beautiful, but that beauty isn't everything?  Or impress upon her that she can be anything, an engineer, a doctor, or even a hairdresser?  How do I give her everything I can while letting her know that everything means nothing without love, family, and God?  How do I strike the balance in guiding her to do what's right while loving her no matter what she does wrong?

Her daddy looks at her with an easy love, while I look at her with fear.  How do I keep from screwing her up?  How do I teach her to be stronger than me?

Most importantly, how do I let her know how much she has brightened my world, without condemning her to live in Gabriel's shadow?  How do I let her know that although I still think Gabriel hung the stars for me, she is my sunshine?  Eden is my Heaven on earth.

I find myself afraid, running from how much I love her.  Over the last three years longing for Gabriel has become the status quo.  It's not surprise to me anymore.  But sometimes I am sitting at my desk at work while Eden is at daycare, and I feel this surge through my body accompanied by an intense desire to hold her in my arms and I know that I am missing her. And I know that feeling is nothing less than unconditional love.